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Caper, R. (1996). Play, Experimentation And Creativity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:859-869.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:859-869

Play, Experimentation And Creativity

Robert Caper

Beginning with Klein's description of a psychotic boy's inability to play, published in 1930, the author explores the relationship between play and symbol-formation, and the use of play by children and adults as a serious type of experimentation by means of which one learns about the internal and external worlds. In this view, play is a way of externalising fantasies originating in one's inner world so they may be seen and learned about. Play is also a vehicle of projection, a fact that allows one to use it to assess the impact of one's inner world on the external world, especially on the minds of one's objects. In this way, playing becomes a way of probing external reality as well. This type of learning depends on the ability to keep internal and external realities distinct even while projecting the former into the latter. In psychotic states, this ability is lost, and the psychotic patient's projections, instead of being usable as a form of playful experimentation, lead to delusions and claustrophobic anxiety. A brief clinical vignette is presented to illustrate these points. The author then explores the application of these ideas to an understanding of artistic creativity, and makes some observations about possible underlying unities between play, scientific experimentation and artistic creativity.

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